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CHC@COL: Chacin hurls a six-hit shutout

DENVER -- The Rockies say it's not as easy as they're making it look, but when their 23-year-old starting pitcher throws a shutout and their catcher knocks a bases-loaded drive deep enough to center field for him to round the bases and plate four runs with one swing -- breaking open a scoreless game and providing more than enough margin for their 5-0 victory -- you have to wonder.

Jhoulys Chacin looked effortless on the mound, throwing his first career shutout and recording the Rockies' first shutout of the season. It couldn't have come at a better time, giving them a seven-game winning streak and following up an eight-game road trip that ended with a Thursday doubleheader in which every pitcher in the Rockies 'pen saw action.

"It was a big game today, because all of the games we've been playing, a lot of innings, and a doubleheader," Chacin said. "I just wanted to try to throw the least pitches per inning that I could to get as deep in the game as I could. I was just trying to throw the first pitch for a strike and after that, use my breaking ball."

He was effective from start to finish, holding the Cubs to six hits and two walks, never letting a man past second while striking out seven on an efficient 114 pitches.

"When he's throwing strikes and pounding the zone with his fastball ... it was all there tonight," manager Jim Tracy said. "The secondary pitches and the capability of them when they don't have to [be used] as frequently to get back into counts, and can [instead] be used as put-away pitches because of the command of the fastball, performances like tonight is exactly what you're going to get from him. He's capable of dominating games when he throws his ball and commands his fastball in the manner in which he did tonight."

Colorado didn't need much to earn Chacin his third win in as many starts this season, but it had a big inning early, loading the bases with the first three men to the plate in the second after going down in order in the first. Troy Tulowitzki extended his hitting streak to six games with a single to left to open the inning, and Todd Helton followed with a hard single to right off the glove of first baseman Carlos Pena. Cubs starter Matt Garza walked Seth Smith to load the bases before striking out Jose Lopez to open an escape hatch for the Cubs.

That brought catcher Chris Iannetta to the plate, and he responded with a bases-clearing triple to center field.

"After the strikeout, I knew he was going to try to get ahead of me, not necessarily with the fastball, but I knew he was going to try to get ahead, so I was looking for a pitch to hit," Iannetta said of the game's decisive at-bat. "He left it over the plate. I at least wanted to get one run in on a sac fly, worst-case scenario. I barreled it up and got it over his head, and I just kept running."

Iannetta isn't known for his running game, but fortune blew his way as his drive outpaced center fielder Marlon Byrd. Iannetta legged it for third, and a good throw would have had him out by a length, but shortstop Starlin Castro's relay from Byrd was wide, allowing Iannetta to round third and trot home for a 4-0 lead.

"With a runner in scoring position, I play a little shallow and try to cut down a guy," Byrd said. "With the bases loaded, you're thinking Garza is going to get a ground ball, hopefully. Slider down, Iannetta put a good swing on it and beat me."

That was all the margin Chacin needed, improving to 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA for the first-place Rockies. Chacin barely seemed to break a sweat. He yielded pairs of singles in the second and fourth frames, and gave up a two-out double to Aramis Ramirez in the sixth. But the Cubs were unable to put together any kind of rally against him. Ramirez had his number, touching him for three of the six hits Chacin gave up on the night.

"What a good-looking young pitcher," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of Chacin. "To have that kind of repertoire in this kind of ballpark, he was good. We created one, maybe two opportunities. I was impressed."

The Rockies had an evenly dispersed offensive attack, with six of their starters getting on the hit board, led by Helton's two hits and including a two-out single from Chacin in the fourth. Helton added a run in the fifth when Jonathan Herrera led off with a single to left to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Helton drove Garza's offering deep to center, shrewdly taking second on the throw to the plate.

"The hitters are doing the job," Chacin said. "Last year we'd pitch six or seven innings and lose by one run. We couldn't do the last step to get one or two more runs to win the game. This year, they are more patient. We're doing the little things, and we're winning games."

The Rockies improved to 11-2 with the win, matching their 2010 win total for all of April with 13 games left to play in the month. Their only losses have come in extra innings, and they are making a strong statement behind key cogs like Iannetta and Chacin, the club's No. 3 starter who is poised to make a significant impact in his first full season in the Majors.

"Not to say that he abused the inside part of the plate, but he pitched in there just enough to make everything he was doing away so effective," Tracy said. "You combine that with having four pitches that are above-average Major League pitches that you can throw for strikes at any time, and more than likely the outcome is going to be very similar to what you saw tonight."

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